The second leg of the Copa Sudamericana semi-final between Argentinos Juniors and Estudiantes de La Plata was as all reasonable people expected it to be. That is, after Argentinos’ first team thrashed Estudiantes’ reserves 5-0 in the league on Sunday, it was evident to all that Estudiantes would advance from the semi. After a 1-1 draw in La Paternal last Thursday, it was back to La Plata tonight, and the hosts edged it 1-0 thanks to a second half goal from José Luis Calderón.
Argentinos were better for most of the first half, Nicolás Pavlovich sending in a left-footer which home goalkeeper Mariano Andújar did well to hold onto after just three minutes. Juan Mercier and Néstor Ortigoza made sure El Bicho had plenty of width and Gabriel Hauche caused the Estudiantes centre backs some real problems with his movement, but Pavlovich’s finishing didn’t improve after that first chance and he continued to be frustrated as the half wore on. Estudiantes, in spite of being dominated, actually worked the best opportunity of the opening 45 minutes; Seba Verón – not enjoying his best match since he wasn’t really match-fit – went on a run and pulled the ball back into the danger zone, only to see first Mauro Boselli and then Diego Galván waste golden opportunities.
The second half was more of the same to begin with, until with an hour gone Leonardo Astrada sent on Calderón, who scored almost immediately, rising to head a corner past Argentinos ‘keeper Sebastián Torrico and give Estudiantes a lead they scarcely deserved. As Argentinos chased the equaliser, Franco Quiroga brought down Nicolás Benítez from behind near the halfway line and the visitors were reduced to ten men by the resulting red card. With a numerical advantage on both scoresheet and teamsheet, Estudiantes looked a lot calmer, and although four minutes of stoppage time didn’t help their nerves, they held on. The last action of the match was Rodrigo Braña’s expulsion for the home side after a hard challenge of his own, but it didn’t change the end result: Estudiantes de La Plata will play Internacional de Porto Alegre – who, inspired by Andrés D’Alessandro, saw off Chivas on Wednesday night in the other semi – in the final of the 2008 Copa Sudamericana. The first leg will take place in La Plata next Wednesday.